“When I saw all those lines running from me to all these other people, when I could see it three-dimensionally, I had amazing insights,” Lokey says. “No wonder instead of feeling supported by this group I felt like I was giving all the time.”
Not only did Lokey see his co-dependency on a support group he wasn’t gaining much from, but through role-playing, he also worked through unfinished business with various members.
These big aha! moments are common at Onsite, which is why Lokey continued to return to Onsite, where he participated in personal growth programs, completed the training to become a group leader and eventually became the chief clinical officer. Today, Lokey leads and recruits Onsite’s group leaders and helps write and create life-changing experiential programs.
“What we’re about is not therapy,” he says. “We’re about living.”
This learning-by-doing method, an action-oriented model of therapy that goes beyond what many talk therapies access, allows Onsite group leaders to creatively show versus tell.
“If we tell others something, we activate one-third of their brain,” Adcox says. “If we show them something, we activate two-thirds of the brain. But if we help them experience something kinesthetically, we can activate all of it. Experiential learning allows us to access the parts of our brain where we create sustainable change.”
But before Onsite’s team can condense 10 to 12 months of outpatient work into a week, they have to create a safe place where people can feel, share and be vulnerable. This starts with doing the hard, personal work themselves and creating a healthy professional culture that mirrors and models the change they ask of their participants.
“It takes a certain kind of professional to bookmark a therapeutic agenda and first walk into the messy parts of people’s stories and build trust,” Adcox says. “It’s very difficult if they haven’t looked at their own story. It requires us as helping professionals to put down the microscope and pick up the mirror. We don’t believe in taking others where we are not willing to go ourselves.”
When people reach for personal transformation and start pushing edges and boundaries in their lives, they have to step into the unknown. It’s uncomfortable, especially when surrounded by strangers.
To build trust among workshop participants, Onsite asks people to turn in their cellphones and other electronic media devices at the beginning of each program. Instead, the beautifully restored 1870s mansion has a wraparound porch and a fireplace where people can be social. They also ask guests to keep their profession anonymous during their stay so everyone is on equal footing.
Whether walking, jogging or gathering on the 80-acre campus, people are discouraged from isolating and encouraged to eat meals with the entire community. The experience is carefully curated and built for inclusion and connection.
For Caroline Park, being part of the community at Onsite was transformational. Born and raised in Texas, Park, her brother and father all struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction. Although everyone eventually got sober, Park still grappled with deeply ingrained beliefs, unhealthy family dynamics, and big-T and little-t trauma.